(SIOUX CITY, IA) - There could be a big change in the way Sioux City voters make their vote count. The city council asked the Woodbury County Auditor to find a way to trim voting expenses, but the idea comes with some controversy.
Sioux City has 28 precinct polling places. Woodbury County Auditor Pat Gill suggested at the council meeting on Monday slimming down that number to four precincts by creating vote centers, saving the city about $5,000. However, some people are worried about taking away places to vote.
Sioux City leaders all agreed they want as many voters as possible to take advantage of the right to vote, but they also want to save money. That's where Woodbury County Auditor Pat Gill steps in. His idea is to have four centralized vote centers. "They can go to any one of those places register and vote on that day and same way for any voter who's on their way home. They can go to a convenient place to vote that's accessible to them," explained Gill. Eliminating the two dozen other precincts would save Sioux City $5,000. Gill said other cities with vote centers are successful. "The participation rates have been pretty much the same or better. They do it in conjunction with absentee voting as we have here in Iowa," he said. However, not everyone is on board.
"I think there needs to be a lot more study, much more understanding about what the voting patterns are in the neighborhoods throughout Sioux City before any drastic change takes places in the number of voting places," said Jim Rixner, a Sioux City voter and former council member.
City council member Rhonda Capron would like to find a compromise between the current system and the current proposal.
"Let's say you're on one side of town and you forgot to vote, you're going to catch it over here. That's what I'd like to see. So maybe we could eliminate a few precincts, maybe not save the 5-thousand dollars, but maybe keep it the way it is," said Capron. On the other hand, allowing voters to vote at any precinct could cost more.
"You have to have the different ballot styles and the different type of equipment for precinct election officials to make sure that you get the right ballot," said Gill.
Gill said he's not as interested in the cost of savings, but more in making it easier for people to vote. The council asked him to come up with more information before members decide how they'll change the system.